FRC Blog

Rogue Robots

Mar 10, 2016 Written by Kate Pilotte, Kit of Parts Manager.


We’ve said that FIRST takes the safety of all participants seriously many times – and we do what we can to walk the talk. We implement systems and rules that mitigate the risk of someone getting hurt (e.g. safety glasses, taping/covering wires at events, publishing safety guidelines, etc.), and we encourage teams to do the same. We celebrate safety conscious behaviors with shout outs, pins, and awards.

We wouldn’t dare claim we can obliterate all risk – the FIRST Robotics Competition has some hazardous stuff: ~140 lb. electro-mechanical assemblies, uneven surfaces, power tools, but heck, I’ve even hurt myself on a toilet paper dispenser.  

Our attention to safety is why we want to talk about a recent rogue robot. At an unofficial Week 0 event, there was an incident in which an autonomous robot broke through a field border and continued through a small crowd of people. Luckily, everyone in that crowd was paying attention and agile enough to get out of the way. There were no injuries.

There could have been though, and so we wanted to take this opportunity to highlight two important points.

  1. Teams, remember that your robot can be disabled safely and quickly from your Operator Console computer.
    • If you’re connected to an official FIRST field, it’s the red button on your player station shelf.
  • If you’re not connected to an official FIRST field and using our Driver Station Powered by NI LabVIEW, use the space bar on your driver station computer. Make sure that the space bar is labeled, everyone on the team knows this, and everyone has permission to disable the robot.
  1. If you’re hosting an off-season event, it’s essential that your field border is robust and contains robots effectively. If you don’t have a field border that can do this, please don’t have the event or don’t allow people anywhere near the field.

Teams, you can check to see if the hosts have provided an adequate border. If they haven’t, we recommend you help them improve it such that it will reliably contain robots or not participate. I know, this feels like a serious reaction; it’s appropriate.

My goal was to keep this short so people would read the whole thing. If you made it this far, I’ve succeeded. Now, do me a favor and read it again, and share it with your team.

Thank you.


We had a situation at a regional this weekend where a robot's drive train was still running (it had dead-ended into a solid object) after the match ended.  It is also important to remind everyone to make sure that their main breaker and pneumatic release valve are both easily found and safely accessed by field stewards.

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